Opinion Digital Banking

What next after Revolut’s week from hell?

The digital bank has drawn the ire of staff, customers, and the regulator. Now it must rebuild.

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Nikolay Storonsky/Revolut

It’s fair to say Revolut had quite possibly the worst week in its four-year history.

First The Telegraph reported that Revolut had turned off a system to prevent money laundering, which CEO Nikolay Storonsky denied in a blog post, but is nonetheless now being looked at by the regulator.

On the same day, Wired published a feature on Revolut’s toxic workplace culture and high staff turnover, much of which shone additional light on Storonsky’s already-reported no-nonsense, “getting s**t done” ethos.

The next day The Telegraph also revealed that the company’s CFO had also resigned, the implication being that this was connected to money laundering short fallings, however Revolut also denied this.

Finally, to round things off, Revolut also suffered outages on Friday.

It’s fair to say that this story has also broken into wider public consciousness. Over the weekend family and friends curiously asked me what was happening, and I overheard several strangers on the train discussing the various Revolut scandals.

One fintech CEO on Friday night warned me that, in his opinion, Revolut risked bringing down the wrath of the tech backlash (aimed so far mainly at Facebook’s privacy failings and Amazon’s HQ2) on fintech.

But, now the dust has settled, where does this all leave Revolut?

Culture clash

When last year I put to Storonsky the concerns that were mulling around Revolut’s work culture, he told me:

“The reality is that we do work hard, but not because someone is pushing, but because there is a huge opportunity and we don't want to miss it. But culture is changing as we grow as well."

He used words like “changing”, but also drew comparisons between Revolut and the workplace culture of investment banks like JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs, some of which expect staff to be working 80-100 hours a week.

Several Revolut investors I’ve asked about the company’s culture also echo a similar sentiment: culture can change.

However, despite all the talk, little seems to have actually changed.

Grumbles by staff and industry insiders have grown louder in recent months and now present a very real risk that Revolut’s brand could become toxic among consumers—a disaster for any $1.7bn hyper-growth company.

Revolution and regulation

Drawing the ire of the regulator is nothing new for challenger banks operating at the forefront of digital banking.

More worryingly, in my mind at least, is the departure of Peter O'Higgins, Revolut’s CFO of three years.

Storonsky wrote that O'Higgins had been “hurt by this suggestion” that his departure was connected to recent scandals.

Instead, he says he stepped down because the company “requires someone with global retail banking experience”.

However, with no successor to announceunlike say Monzo whose departing finance chief Gary Dolman has spent the last several months training up his successorit seems the company is still lacking that experience.

Or maybe it’s just true what they say about corporate scandal, the CFO is always the first to know, and the first to go.

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